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Initiating Interdisciplinary Collaboration Among New Faculty Members

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Tricks of the Trade for Research

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.668.1 - 7.668.6



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Paper Authors

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Richard Felder

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David Ollis

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Main Menu Session 2475

Introducing New Engineering Faculty to Multidisciplinary Research Collaboration

David F. Ollis, Richard M. Felder, Rebecca Brent North Carolina State University


In recent years, a large and rapidly growing body of academic research has invo lved multidisciplinary collaboration. This trend has been driven by a dramatic rise in funding for multidisciplinary projects and research centers, along with a growing recognition that few truly important unsolved research problems involve only one discipline and faculty members cannot hope to become experts in everything.

When planning a week-long orientation workshop for new engineering and science faculty at North Carolina State University, we felt a responsibility to acquaint the participants with this reality of academic research and to help prepare them to engage in collaborative efforts that go well beyond their familiar academic turf. To this end we organized the workshop participants into bi-disciplinary pairs and gave them about 90 minutes to formulate a research project involving each of their areas of expertise. Most of their project outlines (including some from the most unlikely pairings) were coherent, feasible, exciting, and in the opinion of the workshop leaders, likely to be fundable if they were followed through to completion. Some of the pairs have in fact continued their conversations and several proposals are expected to emerge.

This paper briefly outlines the content of the orientation workshop, describes the structure and operation of the project formulation exercise, summarizes the proposed projects, and recounts the participants’ reactions to the exercise.

Introduction: Orienting New Faculty Members

Robert Boice 1 has found that most new faculty members take 4–5 years to become as effective in teaching and productive in research as they are capable of becoming. This result is not surprising considering how little the higher education community does to orient its initiates to the challenges that come with their new jobs. Most new Ph.D.’s who join faculties have only been prepared to work on a research problem someone else has defined. They are expected to figure out for themselves how to plan a course, teach it effectively, assess the learning of their students, define their own research problems, identify and approach potential funding sources, form a research team of graduate students and possibly faculty collaborators, write successful proposals, carry out the research, disseminate the results, balance the competing time demands imposed by teaching, research, and service, and integrate themselves into their campus culture.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Felder, R., & Ollis, D. (2002, June), Initiating Interdisciplinary Collaboration Among New Faculty Members Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10067

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